Social Justice: The dividing line

Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago exposes great injustices and evils, the millions who were arrested, starved, beaten and imprisoned by the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn knew this injustice at first hand. But in prison he became a believer in God, and he longed for God’s justice. He wrote how in prison he learned to reflect, and as he saw the evil of his jailers asked himself “were we really any better?” And he wrote how the dividing line between good and evil goes right through every human heart, that you cannot divide up mankind into good people and evil people, then suppress the evil ones. To do so can make the “good” ones in charge into evil. 

Wine and Communion

Good quote from Gisela Kreglinger

The drinking of wine in the Lord’s Supper draws us into the world of sacrifice. It is here that the spiritual meaning of wine takes on multiple facets that offer rich reflections for Christian life and practice. Just as grapes must be gathered, crushed, and turned into fine wine through the miracle of fermentation, so must human life come under the loving judgment of God.
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The law, the Word, grace and truth

Psalm 119, longest chapter in the Bible. The writer is so convinced the law is a great thing. This startles us, because we're convinced Jesus is so much greater than the Law. As John says, the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

But Psalm 119 does say God is greater than the law. "Your word, Lord, is eternal. It stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations." Just as John proclaims the Word as eternal, from the beginning with God, the Word with God, who is God.

Psalm 89 reminds us of something else firm in the heavens. God's covenant with David, to establish his line, his throne forever. Praise to the Son of David, who has ruled, who will rule forever.

Peace

I came to God asking for help. My situation seemed impossible, I needed it to change.
I learned not just to ask for change, but to lay out before God my feelings. And now, I catch glimpses of peace, knowing God is with me, even if the situation has not yet changed.

The Golden Calf

Sometimes as I read Exodus I sympathize with the Israelites when they doubt or complain against God. "God, aren't you a little harsh?" I want to ask when I read about the people complaining about the food or water, or being afraid of the fiery mountain or pillars of cloud.

But it struck me recently how this attitude (like the people when they did rebel) completely misses the obvious. They were slaves in Egypt, now they are not slaves. Doesn't that outweigh some hardships in the desert? And then this morning I read the story of the Golden Calf. Despite the familiarity it shocked me anew. The people, feeling that Moses had vanished, choose to make new gods to worship! They didn't just cool slightly in their enthusiasm for God, they gave up on him altogether.

I too have wanted to give up on God altogether. Fortunately he persuades me to hang on.

God prunes his branches

Jesus says he is the vine, his Father is the vine grower, and we are the branches. (John 15:1-2). Every branch that bears fruit, the Father prunes. This is a startling, even painful thought. He doesn't want everything that spontaneously grows out of us, he cuts things back to enhance our fruitfulness. But we know he loves us and has compassion. So we can trust he prunes us for our good.

Does God offer reproducible results?

One of the foundations of the scientific method is the notion of reproducible results. If you describe your experiment clearly enough, others should be able to do the experiment and get the same results. If not, there is something wrong with your work. Either you’re faking it, you’re careless (so the description of how you did the experiment is not complete), or there is some other variable you haven’t thought of.
But Scripture presents narratives where results are not reproduced. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt, God sends Moses to confront Pharaoh, initiate all kinds of plagues on Egypt, then finally lead the people out of Egypt, where they are trapped on the seashore, Moses prays and the waters part, so the people march across, and the waters close in again on Pharaoh and his army when he attempts to pursue. Did anyone ever repeat that result? Not really. The people did march across the Jordan riverbed between two walls of water in Joshua’s time; but no plagues, no enemies being drowned.
The people of Israel were carried off as exiles and slaves to Assyria. Did a deliverer rise up to bring them back to the land? No. The people of Judah were carried off as exiles to Babylon. Did a deliverer rise up to bring them back to the land? No single leader steadfast against opposition like Moses, but there were leaders, witnesses to God’s presence. Daniel and Ezekiel gave words of prophecy and encouragement while they were in exile, Ezra led people back to the land, and Nehemiah led more back, and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Did Ezra and Nehemiah see powerful miracles, signs that God was with them? While God did enable them to succeed against great odds, there were not powerful miracles like waters parting, plagues upon the enemies of God, or God appearing like a pillar of cloud or smoke.
So a scientist might be forgiven for wondering if Scripture were really true. It does not present reproducible events, it seems. But one difference between science and theology ought to be made clear. Science mostly concerns itself with matter and impersonal forces. Forces that though powerful can be manipulated when you understand how they work. Theology deals with God, who is a person. In personal relationships, reproducible results are not guaranteed. Doing the exact same thing does not get the exact same response every time from your friends or neighbors. So its not inconsistent to believe it wouldn’t with God either. People of faith testify to a certain degree of reproducibility — they learn to perceive that God is there whether they see him or not, and that when they pray things do happen. Not always what they pray for, but God does comfort, help and encourage in a variety of ways. But he seems to value being unpredictable in how he will comfort, help and encourage.
The Christian life is not really dealing with nonreproducible results, but in nonreproduced results. God is capable of doing again what he did once, but he chooses not to do so to a perhaps surprising degree. But when we remember God is not an impersonal force we can control, maybe this outcome is not so surprising. When we think of spirituality as a relationship with a good and powerful friend that we don’t control, even though he cares for us, maybe the nonreproduced results become more understandable. God often does not repeat the details of how he provides and cares, but his being with us, providing and caring for us, are reproduced experiences.